Emerald fields, riverside adventures and hidden homesteads under the stars; the Macleay Valley Hinterland offers a quintessentially Australian experience.
Perched on a rise overlooking the river, Bemurrah Homestead is located on a working cattle station.
Surrounded by paddocks, the four-bedroom renovated homestead sleeps eight comfortably in two queens, with two additional twin bedrooms perfect for families (with pets on application).
Furnished with country-style timber decor, a fireplace and large self-contained kitchen, the heart of the homestead is the covered front deck, which looks out to the mountains: expect wallabies at dawn and cows grazing in the paddocks all day. Guests can also swim, paddle and fish in the river directly outside the homestead.
Learn more: bemurrah.com.au
Nulla Nulla Blacksmiths Retreat
With no internet or phone reception, hidden in the hills of Bellbrook on a regenerative natural farm, this retreat is the perfect digital detox.
The self-contained spacious one-bedroom red cedar cabin overlooking the forests and crystal clear Nulla Nulla Creek, features a clawfoot bath with a sublime view, and furnishings are made by the blacksmiths hand.
Spend your days lazing on the deck or in the creekside hammock or wandering around the creek and forest. Pre book a forest yoga session or maybe a creekside massage.
Make a point of ordering a naturally grown produce hamper for your arrival.
Learn more: https://www.airbnb.com.au/rooms/23135164
The Regent Cottage at the Gallery Farm
Built in the 1900s and recently renovated, Regent Cottage sits on a working farm near Collombatti. The self-contained, two-bedroom cottage has one queen and one double bedroom, with a shared bath.
A large covered front balcony offers sweeping views across the paddocks and surrounding countryside, and guests are welcomed in the brand new kitchen and living room with a loaf of freshly baked bread.
The highlight is the outdoor entertaining areas, including a telescope for stargazing, outdoor fire pit, and a 15-metre outdoor cinema screen.
Learn more: thegalleryfarm.com.au
What to do in the Macleay Valley Hinterland
The Macleay Valley Hinterland has excellent mountain biking trails. Closer to Kempsey, you’ll find the renowned Kalateenee State Forest Mountain Bike Trails, which include 25 kilometres of graded and well-maintained tracks with obstacles and challenges suitable for beginners upwards.
More experienced riders can also head inland to the granite plateau around Carrai National Park, which has rugged tracks through thick forest with little infrastructure.
Cool off in the Macleay River waterways with a wild swim. One of the best places to take a dip is the shallow waters around Blackbird Flat.
If you’ve brought your own watercraft, it’s also a great spot to launch your canoe, kayak or stand up paddleboard. Conditions can vary, so check it’s safe before taking the plunge.
Road trip the Slim Dusty way
Drive through the rolling hinterland roads to visit the childhood home of iconic Australian songwriter Slim Dusty in Nulla Nulla, on the outskirts of Bellbrook. While the heritage-listed “Homewood” is closed to visitors, there is an interactive panel where visitors can hear the songwriter speak.
Combine it with a trip to The Slim Dusty Centre in Kempsey, which includes a museum, cafe, and the Macleay Valley Coast Visitor Information Centre.
Offering 360-degree views of the Macleay Valley Coast, Collombatti Lookout in the hinterland shows how the ocean meets the land and rises to the tablelands, with views across Crescent Head, Sugarloaf Mountain, and Mount Yarrahapinni.
There are a number of 4WD off-roading opportunities in the Macleay Valley Hinterland. One of the most popular is Georges Junction, located about 50 kilometres north of Bellbrook on the Armidale Road.
The unsealed road through the forest is narrow but picturesque, leading to two free grassy campgrounds (also part of the travelling stock route), with great fishing and swimming nearby. More experienced drivers can take on an additional river trail from the junction.
Catch a fish or two
The Macleay Valley Hinterland is a bass fishing hotspot, with most anglers opting to catch and release. Drop a line from Bellbrook Bridge, from along the banks at Georges Junction or Blackbird Flat, or paddle upriver on a kayak and float back down with the tide.
Where to eat and drink in Macleay Valley Hinterland
South Kempsey Corner Store
If you’re in need of a caffeine fix or a delicious toastie, head to the South Kempsey Corner Store on your way up to the hinterland from Kempsey.
The popular cafe and coffee spot also sells groceries, and is a good place to stock up if you plan to picnic or stay in self-contained accommodation.
A traditional country pub and the heart of the tiny Willawarrin region, Willawarrin Pub offers alfresco dining on the front verandah five days a week. The bistro serves locally sourced, homestyle pub fare, including burgers, steak, fish and chips, as well as a changing selection of homemade desserts and puddings.
Established in 1913, the heritage-listed Bellbrook Pub has a covered back deck overlooking the Macleay River. Alongside a selection of beer on tap, expect classic pub food: think roast dinners, bangers and mash, sweet sticky bourbon ribs and nachos.
Named after the family dog and brewed on the banks of the Macleay River in Kempsey, this independent family-run brewery offers tours, tastings and take away beer from their cellar door, including a handful of changing seasonal brews.
Key towns of the Macleay Valley Hinterland
Traditionally a place for travellers to change horses and rest, this country town was an important centre for livestock trade in the mid-20th Century, and features a historic walk.
Classified by the National Trust as a heritage village, this turn of the century country settlement on the Macleay River was built on the timber and grazing industries, and is considered the gateway to the mountains.
Nearby is Burrel Bulai/ Barrralbarayi/Mt Sugarloaf, which lies at the centre of Thunghutti Country and is associated with initiation ceremonies of the Indigenous Thunghutti mob.
The heart of the Macleay Valley Coast, Kempsey is the main commercial hub connecting the Macleay Valley beaches with the hinterland. Along with all essentials, there are galleries and the Slim Dusty Centre or decades, Kempsey was also the home of the iconic Australian brand Akubra.
For more information: macleayvalleycoast.com.au